Where does Rico Suave come from?
Rico Suave, which could roughly translate from Spanish as “rich and smooth,” first gained widespread popularity in the US in 1991 with the release of Gerardo Mejía’s wildly popular Spanish-English rap song, “Rico Suave.” The lyrics describe a smooth-talking Latino womanizer, which is possibly the source of the character archetype it spawned. Because the song was on his debut album and told a story in the first person, Rico Suave also became a nickname for Mejía himself.
“Rico Suave” peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and Mejía has confirmed in subsequent interviews that he did live the lifestyle described in the song as he toured all over the world. While it’s difficult to say whether the Rico Suave archetype predated the song or if it was wholly invented by the singer, Mejía definitely popularized the term.
Though the song is now considered a one-hit wonder, the character of Rico Suave persists in the public consciousness. Rico Suave first appeared on Urban Dictionary in 2002, and spiked in 2014 when Gerardo Mejía’s reality TV show, “Suave Says,” was released on VH1.
Who uses Rico Suave?
Rico Suave tends to be used as the name of a stereotypical Latino ladies’ man who is very charming but cocky, often depicted as wearing gold jewelry, with flowing or greased hair, and long, unbuttoned shirts over a muscular torso.
People tend to use the term as a way to refer to Latin men they think fit that profile (e.g. “Check out Rico Suave over there”). It’s important to stress here that Rico Suave is a stereotype, and is considered offensive by many, including the Latino community, who widely criticized Gerardo Mejía for perpetuating such a caricature.
Less commonly, Rico Suave is still used as an alternate name to refer to Gerardo, himself.
“My boy O been on that #ricosuave program @ Moorea Beach Club At Mandalay Bay”
Rico Valentino @Rico_Suave4u Twitter (May 8, 2017)
“The story is set to feature a heaping helping of cool—and diverse! yay!—teen mutants coming to terms with their powers, including the Scottish Wolfsbane, Brazilian Rico Suave-type Sunspot, a boy from Kentucky named Cannonball, Native American Danielle Moonstar, and Russian teen Magik.”
Alicia Lutes, “Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams, The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy Confirmed for New Mutants,” Nerdist (May 11, 2017)
“Many people were disturbed by the supermacho, sex-crazed “Latin-lover” images set forth by pop pseudorappers like Gerardo, whose mantra was “Rico Suave’—that is, tasty and smooth.”
Mandalit del Barco, “Rap’s Latino Sabor,” Droppin' Science: Critical Essays on Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture William Eric Perkins (1996)